Warhammer 40K: Boltgun is a surprisingly amazing run-and-gun boomer shooter that stormed the retro-FPS scene. Packed with fantastic sound design and good gunplay and gives the player the ultimate first-person power fantasy of playing an Ultramarine.
However, as great as Boltgun is to play, there are a lot of unclear mechanics and minor issues in the game. This guide will go over some of the basic mechanics to get Boltgun beginners like you off on the right foot to purge in the Emperor’s name.
If you haven’t yet purchased Boltgun and are considering it, feel free to check out our detailed review of Boltgun for more information on where the game shines and where it may need a bit more polish.
Weapon Strength & Enemy Toughness in Warhammer 40K: Boltgun
One of the more unexplained mechanics of Boltgun is weapon and enemy strengths. While veterans of the retro-FPS genre will commonly know that stronger weapons are best used against tougher enemies, this is a strange way to tell the play about what weapon to use against certain enemies.
Toughness Determines How Long an Enemy Can Hold Out Against You
Each weapon in your arsenal has a strength level, which translates to how much damage it deals. Testing the power of a gun against an enemy’s Toughness will roughly tell you how effective that weapon is at dishing out damage.
For example, the Bolter is the first weapon you obtain, and it will obliterate any Chaos Cultist, Nurgling, or Red/Blue Horrors in a couple of shots because it has a base strength of 4. Then using the Bolter against a Plague Toad or Chaos Marine will take a significantly longer time to defeat them because that enemy has a higher Toughness.
When you target an enemy, you can see their Toughness level by the number next to their health bar. If the number has a green arrow pointing up, that means your current weapon will deal a lot of damage, and if the symbol turns yellow, you will deal a moderate amount, and if it’s red, you will deal minor damage to them with that weapon.
If it’s a tough enemy like a Chaos Marine in Terminator Armor, switch to the Plasma Gun or the Heavy Bolter to match the enemy’s Toughness. Otherwise, you will run out of Bolter ammo while trying to bring this heretic down.
Boltgun’s Melee Combat Guide for Beginners
Boltgun’s primary focus is on the gunplay, but it wouldn’t be a true Warhammer 40K game without an option for melee. (Unless you’re a member of the T’au Empire, of course.) Before you acquire the Bolter, you are only equipped with your powerful Chainsword, as every Space Marine should be.
Watch Out for Knockback from Stronger Foes
However, while it’s fun at first, there are a few minor details that need to be explained before you decide to cut down your enemies. The Chainsword will slice weaker foes in half with no problem, but if you attack a stronger opponent with the Chainsword, they have a high chance of knocking you back and canceling the animation.
Boltgun Beginners Should Stick to Ranged for the Game’s Most Powerful Enemies
Healthy enemies are more likely to resist your Chainsword, making it best for dealing with low-tier enemies like Nurglings or as a way to finish off a wounded foe. However, if you do want to rip a full-health Chaos Marine to shreds, you need to mash the melee button if you want to stick on your target and deal more damage.
Although this is risky since you are vulnerable to projectiles while tearing into an enemy with the Chainsword, it’s nice to use every so often whenever a formidable enemy is up close and isolated from the rest of the fight. It would be an excellent way to save ammo, but with the number of item pickups in Boltgun, you will rarely run out of ammo.
Act as a Human Battering Ram
One of the minor details that will help Boltgun beginners in combat is using your Charge. This feature isn’t highlighted very well, but you can turn yourself into a human battering ram by pressing the F key, causing your Ultramarine to charge forward with a powerful shoulder bash.
This Charge easily decimates smaller foes and significantly boosts movement speed, allowing you to bash your way through a crowd of enemies or cross an otherwise difficult gap.
The cooldown for this Charge is relatively short, and in the long run, we found it more useful than the Chainsword for dealing with enemies.
Related Article: Definitive List of the 10 Best Boomer Shooters
Machine Spirit Upgrades can Help Newer Boltgun Players
Playing through the game, you will find plenty of secrets hidden in every level. Among these secrets are the Machine Spirit weapon upgrades in Boltgun. These floating green skulls enhance whatever weapon you are holding when you pick it up, but what does it do?
The Machine Spirit collectible upgrades your current weapon for the rest of the level. These upgrades differ depending on the gun, and the differences can be difficult to distinguish at times. While we won’t go into what every upgrade does here, we will give you a few examples because there is only one Machine Spirit Upgrade per level, so make it count!
1. Bolter Upgrade
Picking up the Machine Spirit Upgrade with the Bolter equipped increases the weapon’s strength from 4 to 5 and increases the magazine size from 25 rounds to 45. This makes the Bolter even more useful, especially against enemies with high Toughness.
2. Plasma Gun Upgrade
The Plasma Gun’s Machine Spirit Upgrade is one of our favorites, especially in chapter one. This collectible blesses the Plasma Gun with a larger fuel canister, going up from 12 to 18 while increasing the fire rate, and the weapon no longer overheats.
The biggest downside to the Plasma Gun is that it overheats, and it’s the only gun in the game that you have to wait for the animation to finish before you swap weapons.
Dedicating your Machine Spirit Upgrade to the Plasma Gun helps eliminate its downsides while drastically increasing its firepower, making it your go-to for melting Terminators and Chaos Marines. Boltgun beginners reading this guide may want to consider investing in these upgrades early as it will make your playthrough against the game’s strongest enemies much easier.
Boltgun Beginners Won’t Get the Damage Feedback They Expect
One critique we have about Boltguns combat is the lack of damage feedback; whenever you take damage, there isn’t a big indication that you have suffered damage. This can lead to some beginner Boltgun players not knowing they’ve taken damage before it was too late.
The only time there was any on-screen effect, showing us that our health was low, was when our health was under 20. That being said, ammo, health, and armor pickups are plentiful but keep a close eye on your health.
Hopefully, this will be changed in the following weeks, but in case there aren’t any changes or any tweaks that give you any indication that you got shot, it’s vital to check your health constantly.
This becomes all the more important as you progress into the later chapters because there are enemies that can deal over 50 damage in one attack, and you would have no feedback on how much damage you took.
Blessed with Different Kinds of Ammunition in Boltgun
The Bolter is the only weapon in the game that has extra but limited ammunition you can find. Found only through secret hunting, you can find three different Bolter ammunition types that will give you one special magazine.
Once you find one of these ammo pickups, it will swap your Bolter’s current magazine with this high-powered box mag that packs devastating firepower.
1. Kraken Bolts
Kraken Bolts are powerful armor-piercing rounds that replace the standard rounds’ deuterium core with solid adamantine and use a heavier charge. The result gives the Bolter much more firepower against enemies with high Toughness, turning this gun into a boss killer.
2. Dragonfire Bolts
Not to be confused with Hellfire Bolts, Dragonfire bolts are among the many incendiary rounds made for Bolters, but this version has splash damage. Equipping the Dragonfire Bolts will give your Bolter a bigger AoE with every shot, rendering the cover almost absolute.
3. Vengeance Bolts
Vengeance Bolts were handcrafted to combat Traitor Marines, giving your Bolter slightly increased armor penetration but drastically increasing damage. They are also made with an unstable flux technology, making them hazardous to use but very effective, so be careful when exercising the Emperor’s Will.
Wrap Up on our Warhammer 40K: Boltgun Beginners Guide
That’s our short beginners guide for Warhammer 40K: Boltgun. It’s a rarity that Warhammer fans are graced with a solid game, and Boltgun will not leave fans disappointed. Despite Boltgun being relatively simple to pick up and play, it caters to both experienced and new players of the retro-FPS genre. Fans of boomer shooter games will be especially pleased to pick this one up!
If you’ve enjoyed Boltgun and are looking for another great retro game to play, check out our review of Cultic. It’s another fantastic pick in the same genre.
For now, fight in the Emperor’s Name!